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‘How do I choose my professors wisely?’
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"As to your question, ‘How do I choose my professors wisely?’

You must read what they write, of course. You wouldn’t trust the tutelage of a Professor of Neurosurgery who had never practised surgery, or a piano teacher who did not know how to play the piano or a driving instructor who had never driven a car. Why would you care to be taught Literature by people who have never produced any? (fiction or nonfiction)

 You will hear the argument that they are there to teach you how to read a novel or a poem and to deconstruct it, and that they are able to do that without ever having written anything themselves. Well, if you want to buy that, you are free to do so.

 And there are times and places when and where it is not entirely untrue. Some are better readers than writers and can convey that ability to students. It was more likely to be true in the past, when one’s professors could be relied upon to hold the entire history of English Literature in their heads.

 But it is rare, very rare, to be able to truly understand something that one has never done. Just remember that any idiot can take a hatchet to the Pieta or a book. Few who do so can create one.

Also, you might want to find out if your professors can relate their own area of expertise to another ― another era or form of Literature ― another voice in the poetic lineage ― another discipline entirely. If they cannot, they are not educated and you must not trust them with the solemn task of educating you. They may be brilliant little myopics, but they are myopics all the same. I trust that is not your aim."

 - Harrison Solow, Felicity & Barbara Pym

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Dr. Harrison, (Dear Professor,)

I’m near the end letters of Felicity & Barbara Pym.  ‘Mousey Women’ January 2, 2__ is one of my favorite letters.  Perhaps because it rings those truths so precisely that I can resonate with; “You must read what they write.”  And, “Some are better readers than writers…”

January 22, 2___Page 153,  4th paragraph, “ Now to the whole truth: a certain entitlement is conferred on those who are not writers but who are gifted with insight – who read beautifully, read with understanding, penetration, grace.  This is not common, but it does exist.  Sometime next year I have a book coming out which some kind scholarly reviewer has called a ‘graceful series of elucidations.’  I hope that praise is deserved but whether it is or not, it is a worthy goal to attempt. What I respect…..”

I’m truly looking forward to the read!


I hope to put this into the most ‘sensible’ words that I possibly can: My deepest appreciation for your phenomenal creative works of literature in the education of art, love, history, psychology, science, religion, family, tea, women, men, children, fashion, tutoring, universities, fame, Hollywood, English literature, England, etc.  Until, I complete my first university (of the finest and ‘necessary’) course in English Literature. Ever. 

Thank you for the wondrous read and respect for others.


Your student,


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Author & Character...

Thanks very much Catherine, for your deep appreciation and your expression of it. I don't know what to say beyond that - everyone reacts to the written word according to the vast panorama of personal experience and perception.

Speaking of which I had a couple of snarky tweets from a person who read the excerpt but not the book - quite ad hominem. As is often the case with the ignorant, she confused the character with the author, did not realise that this was one half of a dialogue which is resolved within the book, largely since she did not read the book. I've given many interviews in which I discuss Mallory as a character - some available on The Red Room. She didn't read those either. :)

Good thing my main character was not a vampire. I hesitate to think what would have ensued!

In any case, I am so pleased that this book means so much to you. I'm looking forward to its North American publication.